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PRESENTED IN THE HOUSE OF THE RIGHT HONOURABLE THE LORD HAY, BY DIVERS OF NOBLE
QUALITY HIS FRIENDS; FOR THE
MONSIEUR LE BARON DE TOUR,
EXTRAORDINARY AMBASSADOR FOR
THE FRENCH KING,
On Saturday, February 22, 1617.
Quid titulum poscis? versus duo tresve legantur. MART.
A MASQUE, &C.] The lord Hay had been sent on a grand embassy to France in 1616, ostensibly to congratulate the king of France on his marriage with the infanta of Spain, but with private instructions to endeavour to discover if there was any likelihood of forming a match between the prince (Charles) and the daughter of Henry IV. Nothing in the annals of diplomacy had ever equalled the splendor, not to say the preposterous extravagance, of this nobleman's public entry into Paris. "Six trumpeters and two marshals in tawny velvet liveries, completely suited and laced all over with gold richly and closely laid, led the way; the ambassador followed with a great train of pages and footmen in the same rich livery, encircling his horse, and the rest of his retinue according to their qualities and degrees in as much bravery as they could devise or procure, followed in couples to the wonderment of the beholders, who filled the windows, balconies and streets." This is but a small part of what is said by Arthur Wilson on the subject; who seems almost at a loss for language to convey an adequate idea of the costly pageantry. "After the Ambassador had been feasted magnificently (he adds) with all his gallant train, in several places, to shew the grandeur of France, he came back and practised it here, making many times, upon several occasions, such stupendious feasts, and heaped banquets, as if all the creatures had contributed to his excess." Life of James, p. 94. It was on one of these "occasions" that the present entertainment (which I have called the Masque of Lethe,) was presented.
THE MASQUE OF LETHE.
The FRONT before the SCENE was an ARCH-TRIUMPHAL,
On the top of which, HUMANITY, placed in figure, sat with her lap of flowers, scattering them with her right-hand; and holding a golden chain in her left hand: to shew both the freedom and the bond of courtesy, with this inscription:
SUPER OMNIA VULTUS.
On the two sides of the arch, CHEERFULNESS and
CHEERFULNESS, in a loose flowing garment, filling out wine from an antique piece of plate; with this word,
ADSIT LÆTITIÆ DATOR.
READINESS, a winged maid, with two flaming bright lights in her hands; and her word,
AMOR ADDIDIT ALAS.
The SCENE discovered, is, on the one side, the head of a boat, and in it CHARON putting off from the shore,
having landed certain imagined ghosts, whom MERCURY there receives, and encourageth to come on towards the river LETHE, who appears lying in the person of an old man. The Fates sitting by him on his bank; a grove of myrtles behind them, presented in perspective, and growing thicker to the outer-side of the scene. MERCURY, perceiving them to faint, calls them on, and shews them his golden rod.
AY, faint not now, so near the fields of
Here no more Furies, no more tor
Than each hath felt already in his
Who hath been once in love, hath proved his hell.
Up then, and follow this my golden rod,
That points you next to aged Lethe's shore,
Lethe. Stay; who or what fantastic shades are these
Mer. They are the gentle forms
Of lovers, tost upon those frantic seas,
Whence Venus sprung.
Lethe. And have rid out her storms?
Lethe. Did they perish?
Mer. Drown'd by Love.
The whole masque was sung after the Italian manner stylo recitativo, by master Nicholas Lanier; who ordered and made both the scene and the music.
That drew them forth with hopes as smooth as
Th'unfaithful waters he desired them prove. Lethe. And turn'd a tempest when he had them there? Mer. He did, and on the billow would he roll,
And laugh to see one throw his heart away;
O love, I now to salter water turn
Than that I die in; then a fourth, to cry
A fifth laugh out, It is my ghost, not I.
And shuns the rest, as glad to be alone,
And whispers to himself, he is not dead.
Fates. No more are all the rest.
I Fate. No.
Mer. But why
Proceeds this doubtful voice from destiny?
Fates. It is too sure.
2 Fate. Ay. Thinks Mercury,
That any things or names on earth do die,
That are obscured from knowledge of the Fates,
Fate. And know all nature's dates?
Mer. They say themselves, they are dead.
I Fate. It not appears,
Or by our rock,
2 Fate. Our spindle,
3 Fate. Or our shears.
Fates. Here all their threads are growing yet, none